In a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, it has been found that over 71% of Americans believe that the climate crisis is causing harm to individuals within the United States. Furthermore, a slightly smaller proportion, under two-thirds of the surveyed populace, anticipate this harmful climate impact to worsen during their lifetimes.
The results of the survey paint a gloomy outlook from Americans on the effects of climate change on the nation. Alec Tyson, an associate director from Pew Research Center who led the survey, shared these viewpoints. The survey marks a decisive shift in Pew’s focus; while previous polls explored attitudes towards policy related to climate change and potential solutions like wind and solar energy, this was the first concerted effort from Pew to understand how Americans perceive climate change and its impact on their lives.
The survey was conducted online, incorporating the feedback of 8,842 adults from across the United States from September 25 to October 1. The timing of the survey coincides with a summer characterized by extreme weather events, such as the deadly heatwave in the Southwest and devastating floods in Vermont. Tyson expressed a desire with this survey to determine whether these climate disasters were taking a toll on public perceptions of climate change and its effects on American lives.
The survey revealed that close to half of the American population expects to make minor sacrifices due to the climate crisis during their lifetimes, while approximately a quarter anticipate making major sacrifices. Interestingly, 28% do not expect to make any sacrifice at all due to climate change; the nature of these sacrifices, however, whether major or minor, were left undefined by the Pew team.
However, the survey also highlighted significant political divisions, varying perceptions largely along party lines. For example, while 86% of Democrats foresee worsening negative impacts from climate change during their lifetime, only 37% of Republicans share this belief.
Generally, Democrats have a more pessimistic view of the future impacts from climate change than their Republican counterparts. Tyson observed that despite variables such as age and geographical location, political allegiance shapes the views on climate change more distinctly.
Furthermore, demographic factors like the place of residence and age also influence the perception of climate change. Most of the respondents agreed that coastal Florida, Southern California, and the Southwest would deteriorate as places of residence over the next three decades due to climate change. Nearly half of the adults living in the Western US anticipate that climate change will worsen their regional conditions, while only 30% of Midwestern residents agree. Such findings, according to Tyson, underline how the concept of varying severity of climate change impacts across different locations might resonate with the general public.